I’m about to send these questions out to Dr. Pepperberg (hopefully for next week’s Grey Matters), and wanted some feedback. Also, please suggest questions if you have some!
Q. Initially your research background was not in comparative cognition and language. How did you become interested in this field?
Q: Human language processing and production relies on specific brain structures (Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas). Are there thought to be equivalent structures in the avian brain?
Q. Why might parrots have evolved to be such superior mimics, and how would this serve them well in the wild?
Q. Do you think that Alex is representative of African Grey intelligence, or exemplary in his abilities?
Q. Do you consider your Greys pets or research subjects, and how does this distinction affect your research?
Q. Detractors of animal language and comprehension research often point out that while Greys may make word-object associations, they can not comprehend or use grammatical structure. Why is this an important distinction?
Q. Do you think that it is possible to instill an understanding of grammar in a Grey? What about any non-human animal?
Q: Have you ever noticed an instance where Alex (or another Grey) has “taught” or corrected one of his cohorts?
Q. Have you studied any other species of parrots? If so, what types of studies have you performed? How do they compare to Greys?
Q. Can Alex recognize representations of objects, like on TV or a picture?
Q. Despite the popularity of your work, many of your colleagues have been slow to accept it. Why might this be? Has it impacted your ability to get federal funding?
Q. Your Greys have shown the ability to “coin” words for unknown objects. Can you give an example of that?
Q. How did you choose the model-rival technique as the best one for teaching parrots?
Q. How is a “zero concept” different from an idea of absense, and which does Alex display?